Even in defeat, NHRA Top Fuel newcomer Austin Prock was extremely impressive in his debut at the Lucas Oil Winternationals.

Early title-contender pick Mike Salinas beat the 23-year-old Prock in round 2 of Monday’s eliminations at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif. But Prock matched him 3.6 for 3.6 -- seconds in elapsed time for which elite racers Clay Millican, Leah Pritchett, Steve Torrence, and Tony Schumacher had seemed to corner the market.

Prock ran a 3.699-second E.T. on the 1,000-foot course at 334.15 mph, the quickest and fastest of his budding career. It was only his sixth competitive pass in a dragster. His 334.15 ranks No. 7 on the all-time speed chart, tying him with Shawn Langdon (Reading, Pa., 2012) and Pritchett (Phoenix, 2017). For the record, Salinas won with a 3.685-second pass at a 334.40-mph speed that tops of the meet and fifth-fastest of all time.

Coupled with his first-round pedalfest victory Sunday over 2017 champion and his John Force Racing teammate Brittany Force, the Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist Dragster driver has earned kudos from drag-racing icon Don “The Snake” Prudhomme. Prock established himself a promising powerhouse as one of the dozen drivers to beat the rainstorm that pushed eliminations into Monday. Not only did Prock win his first race-day test, he lost traction, then feathered the throttle perfectly.

But once he earned the first-round win, he demonstrated that he had above-average instincts when his parachute didn’t come out at the close of his run. He stopped the car on the pavement and spared it from damage in the pea-gravel pit that’s designed to corral runaway cars.

“That was awesome: first-ever time, first round of eliminations. To get to pedal it and get the job done, that was pretty sweet,” Prock said. The former sprint car racer credited his successful pedal job to “growing up in circle track, getting a feel for the car.”

“We did it in style. That was the first time I’d ever pedaled a race car. It just seemed like instinct for me,” Prock said. “I watched Billy [Torrence] do it two pairs in front of me, so I knew I had to be ready for it. I was, and we got the job done,” he said. “The ’chutes didn’t come out. I hit the lever, and the cable was about a 16th of an inch from getting the chutes out. I got it stopped, though, so that was good.”

Prudhomme said Sunday, “I saw someone who’s a rookie that looked like a veteran today. He went out there and pedaled the car, and it stayed nice and straight. That’s the first time he’s had to pedal the car, and that’s a tough thing to do.” He said working with young drivers and following Prock’s progress “is a lot of fun. It pumps me up a lot. I enjoy it.”

Prock said Sunday, “I’m still speechless. I can’t believe how well this weekend has gone so far. My team is doing a great job, and I’m really happy that Montana Brand and Rocky Mountain Twist came on board to help make this dream of mine come true.”

Source: Autoweek

February 11, 2019